Livin' on the MDedge

Misinterpretation is a science, not an art


And the word of the year is …

Flibbertigibbet. Bamboozle. Gobbledygook. If the LOTME staff had any say, those would be the words of the year every year, but sadly, we’re not in charge of such things. Instead, we’ll just have to defer to Oxford and Merriam-Webster, both of whom have recently chosen their words of the year. No word yet on whether or not they made their announcement at a red carpet gala dinner attended by all the most fashionable and powerful words out there, but we’re hoping that’s what happened.

African-American female receiving a COVID-19 vaccine NoSystem images/Getty Images

We’ll start with Oxford, since they did choose first. We all know Oxford is the bad boy of the dictionary world, so they’ve chosen a casual colloquialism related to the big COVID-sized elephant in the room (or should it be elephant-sized COVID in the room?): Vax. According to them, while vax has been hanging around since the 1980s, it’s only been in the past year that it’s exploded in popularity in a wide range of contexts (we can’t imagine what those would be). According to Oxford, “as a short pithy word, it appeals, perhaps especially to media commentators, when more formal alternatives are much more long-winded.”

Speaking of long-winded, that brings us to Merriam-Webster, the sheltered nerd of the dictionary world. Clearly they’re too good for vax, so they’ve gone with vaccine as their 2021 word of the year. Vaccine, according to Merriam-Webster, carries two big stories: The impressive and herculean feat of bringing a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly to so many people, and the complex political and social upheaval between vaccine supporters and deniers.

Vaccine also serves as a great bookend for Merriam-Webster’s 2020 word of the year: Pandemic. In 2020, the pandemic started, and in 2021, thanks to the vaccine, the pandemic ends. That’s how it works, right? We have a vaccine, it’s all over now. What’s that? Omicron? No! Bad COVID! You do that outside, not on the carpet!


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